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A website purportedly offering money to people willing to snitch on their unvaccinated family, friends, and neighbors for breaching vaccine mandates has gone viral in anti-vaxxer circles.
But just like so many other things shared in these groups, the “anonymous unvaccinated reporting system” is completely fake.
Not only that, the website was designed and built by David Bramante, a realtor and a Republican candidate running for governor in California’s recall election, who says the website was simply a piece of “political satire” designed to highlight what he views as unconstitutional vaccine mandates.
The website, which claimed to be run by two experts hoping to establish a database of anti-vaxxers for the government, launched last week. It quickly gained traction in the anti-vaxxer community, where it was taken at face value: many likened it to the Nazis asking people to inform on their family and friends.
“This is real,” one Twitter user said about AURS. “This is so #OldSovietBlock that it is difficult to believe it exists. Land of the Free? Apparently not.” Another said “this is quite literally the slide into a dystopian hell.”
On Facebook, where links to the AURS website were shared more than 800 times according to data from Facebook’s analytics tool Crowdtangle, one commenter said: “See what's happening to our Country it's becoming a Communist Country. Is this what we are becoming, where we turn on each other?”
One TikTok video of a woman claiming the site reminded her of the Nazis was widely shared in anti-vaxxer circles, and continues to be shared credulously despite the fact the original has now been deleted.
The site became so popular towards the end of last week that it crashed, and only the landing page was viewable, leading to further confusion around the real purpose of the project.
“The AURS website received over 300,000 visitors in less than a week, and because of the traffic load on certain days the servers crashed routinely throughout the week too,” Bramante told VICE News on Monday.
“This forced me to create a clone website to handle additional traction, but for a lot of people they didn't get to see the whole site and the disclaimer because of the crashes. This added an additional level of complexity—and unfortunately confusion—regarding the goal.”
Bramante says that he has “considered every day since launching the site to take the site down.” But despite his close family and friends pleading with him to take the site offline, or at least provide a popup on the landing page to explain it’s not real, he currently has no plans to take it down.
“Every day many people reach out to me to support what I'm doing, from all over the world, and they have applauded the courage a site like this takes because it's so controversial,” Bramante said.
The site was launched in response to reports that the LA City Council is planning to introduce a vaccine mandate akin to the system in place in New York where the city will demand proof of at least one dose of a vaccine before allowing access to activities like indoor dining, gyms, and performances. As well as the AURS website, Bramante says he’s working on a lawsuit to try and block the vaccine mandate in LA.
Part of the reason Bramante says he launched the website is that he was failing to get any media coverage of his campaign to replace Gavin Newsom as California governor, who will seek to retain his seat in a recall next month.
Visitors to the AURS landing page are greeted with the message “Welcome to the future.”
The site then says: “Earn extra cash! Report unvaccinated Family, Friends & Neighbors (FFNs) anonymously online. Every name you submit gives you a chance to win $2,500 in our monthly sweepstakes:”
Clinking on the “File a Report” button brings you to a page with a number of fields seeking information about the person you are snitching on, including their email address, phone number, and address.
Bramante says over 2,000 people have already sent data through the website. When asked what happens to the data, Bramante told VICE News that when people contact him because they also hate vaccine mandates, he urges them to support his gubernatorial campaign.
He says that he does not publicly share the information of those who credulously submit snitching reports, and deletes their details.
The website’s “About” page claims the site was set up by a “Dr. Jonathan Morse” and “Professor Brad Webber” who received funding of $7.5 million with the aim of creating “the leading for-profit United States ‘anti-vax’ registry for the government.”
But both the names and the attached pictures were generated by artificial intelligence, Bramante told VICE News. Morse and Webber are “100% not real.”